It must be really hard being a NICU nurse sometimes. Trying to pitch the care of the parents at just the right level. The trouble is I suppose, every parent brings to NICU their own life story. A story that will dictate how they function under the most extreme pressure.
Obviously our childhoods, our adult lives and any experience we may have had as parent are all likely to impact on our perceptions and lets be honest there are some pretty dark realities available to engage with in the intensive care unit.
Naturally, nurses experience the unit in a very different way to parents. Years of training and mental preparation is what has enabled them to spend time there. The things they see, do and experience must be far from pleasant and surely no matter how much training they have, there must be things that will haunt them beyond their working hours.
My own experience as a parent was in itself multi -dimensional. There was was the terrifying fear that my baby wouldn't live, there was the feeling torn between Mr G and Smidge. There was the bonding issue, and then, probably as a direct result of all the other issues was the increased anxiety and feeling like I was being judged.
See I don't think the doctors and nurses meant to make me feel worse at all, they were all about making me feel better. I see that now. However when scribblings about my anxiety and conversations about getting counselling repeatedly came to my attention, I felt I was doing something wrong, that I had been deemed as 'coping really badly'
Every time such issues were mentioned in a bid to offer support, I became immediately defensive. 'Anxiety? What Anxiety?' I took it to mean I was failing.
I guess it stems from the fact that I come from a 'pick yourself up and get on with it' sort of family, so the suggestion that I might be anxious was not received very well at all. This, in turn made me feel very isolated because I genuinely had no idea that was it okay to be worried. I assumed that my constant questions, fear and worry was making peoples jobs harder and they just wanted to divert me to a counsellor so I stopped taking up their time.
About three months in to my journey, I'd heard so much about the anxiety and counselling that I decided I wanted to bring the whole thing to a head. I felt very misunderstood. I wanted to shout at every nurse and doctor who had ever cared for Smidge and say.
'Don't you get it?? There is a VERY sick baby there...why does this have to be about my anxiety? Surely it's about the baby I've watched turn blue, gray purple and white more often than anyone should see a baby turn blue,gray, purple or white.'
Or in one day Hubby's words.. You wouldn't go up to somebody in a war zone and say 'You're looking a little anxious there....' would you? It just doesn't seem appropriate for the circumstances.
I guess what it boils down to is this.
It was important to me that I was perceived to be coping. To be told I was doing well would have gone a long, long way.
To be reminded there is no right or wrong way to be or behave in these situations would have been sanity saving.
When I finally did sit down and read my notes with a doctor and a nurse, I told them in no certain terms that I found all this 'anxiety +++' malarkey extremely upsetting and asked them why it was noted.
The nurse said "It's because we recognise that this is an anxious situation"
And that was the very first time it occurred to me that it might be okay to be anxious.